CLE Noncompliance Leads to Attorney’s 90 Day License Suspension
An Arizona parental-rights attorney was suspended from practicing law for 90 days after practicing for several months with a previously suspended license. The suspension was issued because of unfulfilled continuing legal education obligations and in one instance, forced a “panicked” client to get a new court-appointed counsel on the day of a juvenile-court severance trial.
Iller Michelle Hardy, a Phoenix-based lawyer who works in part as a court-appointed attorney for parents in danger of losing their custody rights, was suspended by an Arizona disciplinary judge in an opinion that questioned Hardy’s credibility tied to reasons for some of her conduct but stopped short of finding that she lied.
According to the suspension opinion from Presiding Disciplinary Judge Margaret Downie, in which she also imposed two years of disciplinary probation on Hardy, the parental rights lawyer’s issues originally stemmed from her not complying with the mandatory state continuing legal education requirements.
After she was issued a default notice in January 2021 for not having fulfilled the MCLE requirements, the state suspended Hardy’s law license in February 2021. The state still did not hear anything from Hardy for months, according to Downie’s recent opinion, which cited facts from an Arizona state bar complaint against Hardy and which deemed those facts admitted based on “default” by Hardy.
Then, on June 8, 2021, a criminal defense lawyer for a client who was simultaneously being represented by Hardy in juvenile court, phoned the state bar’s intake counsel stating that the client was scheduled for a “severance trial” in juvenile court that day, but learned that Hardy’s law license was “suspended” and that the client and criminal lawyer were now “in a panic.”
At that point, the intake counsel got in touch with Hardy, who told the counsel she had tried to submit her MCLE paperwork, according to the suspension opinion. The intake counsel then told Hardy she could tell the juvenile court about her suspension but could not file any court papers.
Later that day, the client’s criminal lawyer informed the intake counsel that Hardy did not appear at the severance trial but asked a guardian ad litem to tell the court about her suspension, and that the court then appointed a different lawyer for the client and set a new trial date, according to Downie’s opinion.
Hardy then began responding to the state bar charge of not meeting CLE requirements, according to the opinion, and she “acknowledged” that she had practiced law for “almost four months while suspended” in 2021. She also gave the bar a list of “multiple client matters, including hearing dates, work performed, and client contacts, that showed she was actively practicing law the entire time she was suspended.”
Downie found that Hardy had violated multiple professional conduct rules regarding the “unauthorized practice of law” and pertaining to “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice”.
“Ms. Hardy knew her [CLE-related] suspension was impending several months before the … severance trial but did not cure the underlying deficiencies and continued practicing law throughout her period of suspension,” Downie wrote.
Downie’s opinion was released September 20th though she made the 90-day suspension of Hardy effective April 29th, according to the opinion. The two-year probation period imposed on Hardy continues.
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The important takeaway from this story is to make sure you are in compliance with all of your current CLE requirements. Fortunately, we have bundles that will keep you compliant, are affordable, engaging and completely online for your convenience. Take a look at our bundles here and just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding your state’s CLE compliance rules.